More stupid council waste

Herald Sun Editorial: More stupid council waste. 17 May 2014

THE ratepayers of Moreland will be astonished to learn that the council is considering spending their hard-earned dollars in support of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot, rather than on providing essential community services, some as mundane as filling in holes in the road.

Pussy Riot, whose name has nothing to do with cats, incensed Russian President Vladimir Putin with a performance at Moscow’s Orthodox Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The all-female group sang an anti-Putin song and three of its members were sent to jail with two serving most of a two-year sentence before being released last year. Pussy Riot are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights and, while some Moreland ratepayers might be concerned at their treatment, it is doubtful they would think their rates should be used to buy a set of Russian dolls for the council’s art collection.

As reported in today’s Herald Sun, the dolls are the work of ceramicist Penny Byrne, clad in balaclavas as worn by the band when performing. Moreland Council’s arts committee has recommended council stump up $5500 from ratepayers’ funds to buy the traditional matryoshka dolls, much like the souvenir dolls tourists bought in their thousands at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Moreland ratepayers might sympathise with the group, who performed at Sochi, where they were attacked with whips and pepper spray by Cossacks acting as security guards. Some members of the band have now fled Russia fearing persecution.

Moreland councillors, who might think of themselves as having a conscience about matters that can in no way be considered to have anything remotely connected to council services to suburban families, would be better to forget buying the dolls for their art collection.

They might consider it beneath them to concern themselves with roads and drains but should leave this issue to the European Court of Human Rights and watch Pussy Riot on the internet. At least former mayor Cr Oscar Yildiz thinks the money could be better spent and says council needs to “get the basics right before we pump money into projects that don’t necessarily give our residents a return on their rates”.

This is not the first time Moreland councillors have involved themselves in issues that have nothing to do with their responsibilities to their ratepayers. The council opposed changes to anti-vilification laws and criticised negotiations with the United States and other countries on trans-Pacific trade deals. These issues, whatever their opinions, have nothing to do with why councillors are elected.

Moreland is not the only municipal council to allow its socialist tendencies to get out of control. Yarra Council allowed protesters at a drilling site for the East West Link to park their caravan in an area reserved for the handicapped.

It seemed not to matter that handicapped drivers might be seriously inconvenienced and that protesters should have been told to park their caravan elsewhere. Yarra Council annoyed many ratepayers by sponsoring the installation of vending machines to supply syringes to drug users who might require an immediate fix. The Herald Sun spoke to residents, who were incensed and frightened at the presence of people shooting up in their front gardens and in a supermarket carpark where they could be seen by mothers shopping with their children.

Other councils have simply wasted ratepayers’ money on themselves, such as Cardinia Shire, which spent $20,000 on a Cardinia Day staff party and $10,000 a week later on a staff Christmas party.

The City of Melbourne paid $340,000 for a sculpture of a full-sized tram. Maribyrnong Council spent $170,000 on art work depicting a pile of rocks.

Administrators have to be sent in when the activities of some councils spin out of control. If Moreland councillors take up their committee’s recommendation to support a Russian punk band, they will have proved themselves deaf to ratepayers’ concerns.

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